|TRENTON – Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino announced that four men were indicted today on charges they conspired to steal numerous luxury cars in northern and central New Jersey which they attempted to load on cargo ships or fence in other states in some instances. They were charged in an investigation by the New Jersey State Police Auto Theft Task Force and Division of Criminal Justice.
The Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau obtained a state grand jury indictment today charging each of the following men with second-degree counts of conspiracy, financial facilitation of criminal activity, fencing, receiving stolen property, and theft by unlawful taking:
- Kelvin Vega, 25, of Newark,
- Jonathan Vega, 24, of Newark, Kelvin’s brother,
- Carlos Sanchez Jr., 18, of Newark, and
- Bilal Cureton, 27, of Newark.
All of those men are also charged with third-degree burglary, and Cureton is charged with third-degree attempted theft by unlawful taking.
The defendants allegedly stole numerous high-end vehicles, including various models of Mercedes, BMW and Bentley. The investigation revealed they allegedly used certain spots to “cool off” vehicles, parking them at a hotel in Elizabeth, for example, until they were sure they were not equipped with tracking devices that would lead law enforcement to them. After a vehicle was sufficiently “cooled,” it was moved to a loading location, usually in Irvington, to be shipped, or was fenced domestically. Several of the vehicles allegedly stolen by the defendants were recovered from shipping containers prior to being placed on cargo vessels. The defendants were allegedly directly linked to thefts of at least 14 vehicles with a combined estimated value of more than $800,000. Vehicles were stolen in New Jersey from Morristown, Long Hill, Jamesburg, Holmdel, Livingston, Closter, Princeton and Mahwah. One stolen Mercedes S550 was traced to Louisiana, where Kelvin Vega allegedly was found in possession of that car and a second stolen Mercedes S550. Other stolen cars were recovered in Maryland and Ohio.
“These men allegedly scoured wealthy residential areas for the luxury cars they prized, typically stealing them right from their owners’ driveways,” said Attorney General Porrino. “This was big business for these defendants, but our Auto Theft Task Force has taken down their alleged conspiracy.”
“Over the past several years, we’ve arrested scores of car thieves, including violent carjackers, through joint investigations with the New Jersey State Police and our other law enforcement partners,” said Director Elie Honig of the Division of Criminal Justice. “By putting these criminals behind bars and breaking up their fencing operations, we’ve made our residents safer and protected valuable property.”
“These callous defendants targeted suburban residents and luxury car owners for their own financial gain,” said Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police. “Thanks to the collaborative efforts of the State Police Interstate Theft Unit, the Division of Criminal Justice and their task force partners, we were able to put an end to this real-life 'Grand Theft Auto' scheme.”
Deputy Attorney General Debra Conrad, Senior Counsel of the Division of Criminal Justice Specialized Crimes Bureau, presented the indictment to the state grand jury, under the supervision of Deputy Bureau Chief Jacqueline Smith. Detective Sgt. Jarek Pyrzanowski of the New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice and Detective Santiago Tapia of the Woodbridge Police Department were the lead detectives for the investigation. They were assisted by Essex County Sheriff’s Investigator Kevin Macken and numerous other members of the New Jersey State Police Auto Theft Task Force. The Division of Criminal Justice Surveillance Unit under Detective Joseph Saiia also provided valuable assistance. Attorney General Porrino commended all of the members of the Task Force who conducted the investigation.
New Jersey State Police Auto Theft Task Force
- New Jersey State Police
- New Jersey Division of Criminal Justice
- Newark Police Department
- Woodbridge Police Department
- Bloomfield Police Department
- Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor
Second-degree charges carry a sentence of five to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $150,000, while third-degree charges carry a sentence of three to five years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000.
The indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.
The indictment was handed up to Superior Court Judge Peter E. Warshaw in Mercer County, who assigned the case to Morris County, where the defendants will be ordered to appear in court at a later date for arraignment.
Defense Attorney: Undetermined.
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